Hi all! I'm very new to smoking, having only attempted it once, using my 5 burner propane BBQ, to do a Thanksgiving turkey. Now it's time to get real! I've purchased an old Frigidaire fridge, all metal inside. I've NEVER built a smoker of any type, nor owned a manufactured one. I plan to make this build as simple as possible. I know I could use all kinds of electronic doodads, but I'd rather keep it simple. I don't want a "set it and forget it" smoking experience. I don't mind tending to it.
My smoking plans are to be able to smoke meats, poultry and the occasional fish batch. Primarily Pork Butts, Hams, Briskets, Venison/Elk and Beef roasts/steaks, whole Chickens and whole Turkeys. If it's a feasible option, I wouldn't mind attempting to also use the smoker to make jerky. If that's not an option, I'm perfectly fine continuing to use my dehydrator. I'd also like to be able to finish my foods in the smoker, though if I have to finish in an oven or on a BBQ Grill, I'm willing to do that.
Dimensions are as follows, it's not as large of an area as I'd figured it'd be, which will probably be a good thing:
27" wide x 53" tall x 19"
22" wide x 29.5" tall x 13" deep (with door closed)
Dimensions of area underneath, where the compressor was located.
27" wide x 15" tall x 17" deep (the back of this area is open and the 15" tall measurement was taken to the top of the brace above the feet, so there's actually more height available)
First, I need opinions, suggestions and advice on the following heat/smoke options.
Heat/Smoke options I'm considering...
1. This option actually consists of 2 options. Use a Brinkman style Off-Set Firebox, (A) plumbed directly into the side of the cooling box OR (B) plumbed through the floor of the fridge by mounting the firebox to the side of the fridge, but lower than the actual cooling box, and using a 90 degree elbow to come up through the floor. I would think the second option would eliminate needing to cut through all the insulation, though the floor may very well be insulated as well.
2. Use a Brinkman Smoker element, in either 1500 or 2000 watts. This would entail cutting through the floor, wiring in the element.
3. Use a single or double hot plate. I'd assume I'd still need to cut through the floor, either 1X8" hole or 2X8" holes, mounting the hot plate unit from underneath, so just the burners were inside the cooling box. I'd have access to the controls from the back opening in the area underneath the fridge.
Options 2 and 3 would require that I open the fridge door to replenish my wood chunks/chips, losing heat and smoke in the process.
Option 2 might be overkill, since this isn't a very large smoking area.
Then, I'm also considering a 4th option, combining option 1(A) and option 3, creating a dual heat/smoke source smoker. This would allow me to use charcoal OR electricity.
Next, I need opinions, suggestions and advice on chimney options. I realize that my heat/smoke option will determine my chimney option, or at least I think so. With electricity, I'm assuming I don't need as large of a chimney as I would with charcoal?
From my research, it appears I want my smoke to exit the SIDE of the box, instead of the TOP, to eliminate condensation dripping back onto the meat. What size exit chimney should I use? Where should I locate it?
Fresh air supply vents? Do I need them? I would assume, if I go with options 2 or 3, I would need at least a small fresh air supply vent, low, in the side or bottom of the box. With option 1, I'd think I wouldn't need a vent but might want to add a dampner between the off-set firebox and the fridge?
Now for the pictures! First up will be pictures as the fridge looks now. Then, I'll post a few in which I've done some rudimentary editing, to show where I've thought to plumb "stuff."
Now for the plumbing ideas. They may be difficult to see, but there's black circles added, roughly where I'd plumb the Brinkman style fire box in, for Options 1A and 1B, above.
In this image, the top circle would represent Option 1A. The lower circle would represent Option 1B.
In this image, the top circle again represents Option 1A. The lower circle represents Option 1B.
And finally, in this image, both circles would represent Option 1B. The circle on the floor would represent Option 3, though a second would be cut for a 2 burner hot plate.
Now that you've put up with this very long post, please give me all you've got! I'm excited to get this started!!